Google’s New Structured Snippets Pull Facts Into a Page’s Search Results

This week, the Google Research team unveiled “structured snippets,” which presents an additional way Google pulls data from a Web page into its search results.

From the announcement:

“Google Web Search has evolved in recent years with a host of features powered by the Knowledge Graph and other data sources to provide users with highly structured and relevant data. Structured Snippets is a new feature that incorporates facts into individual result snippets in Web Search.”


You can look at the new structured snippets yourself by clicking on the results for the nikon d7100 search here. These data pieces are tagged onto the bottom of the original text of the snippet and are not hyperlinked.

Google says structured snippets are the result of a collaboration between Google Research and the WebTables research teams. The snippets work by extracting information from data tables on a Web page and pairing that with an algorithm to help determine the quality and relevance of which data to display in the snippet. Up to four pieces of information could appear, the announcement said.

From the Google Research Blog:

“We use machine learning techniques to distinguish data tables on the Web from uninteresting tables, e.g., tables used for formatting Web pages. We also have additional algorithms to determine quality and relevance that we use to display up to four highly ranked facts from those data tables.”

The idea of enhanced snippets is not a new concept, and they often add more reasons for users to click through to a site (think rich snippet reviews). But with rich snippets, for example, webmasters are responsible for marking up their pages to have that information be included.

AJ Kohn of SEO and marketing consultancy Blind Five Year Old says that “Structured snippets show Google’s ongoing emphasis on extracting structure and entities from unstructured content.”

He adds, “Google has long been able to identify and produce snippets for results pages, forums, and Q&A sites, to name a few. Now, they’re going further and working to identify meaningful tables of data, and then verifying them via an entity and fact repository.”

There could be an interesting outcome due to these new snippets, however. Just like Google’s Knowledge Graph “cards” – the results that attempt to answer the query of a searcher without having to click through to a site – these new structured snippets pose additional questions for webmasters and marketers: Will they decrease click-through rates, will they imrpove the user experience, or both?

Kohn suggests structured snippets will organize and enhance the search experience: “In short, Google knows there’s a treasure trove of content that doesn’t have specific structure (aka markup), and is working hard to bring order to that chaos, so it can better serve query intent. That means the top questions lurking behind a simple query might be answered more quickly than before.”

For now, Google says the quality of the facts will vary across the results, and is based on the page content. “We are continually enhancing the relevance and accuracy of the facts we identify and display,” the announcement said.

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